When Morgan DeBaun and her co-founders Aaron, Jeff and Jon started Blavity almost four years ago it was a platform to unite and elevate the voices of black millennials. Since then, their company has grown to be the home to the largest network of brands that serve a wide spectrum of young people who lead multifaceted lives and have diverse interests. The business growth has commanded the market for black media in its growing reach of 30 million people each month, all while acquiring brands like Travel Noire and Shadow & Act while creating new ones like AfroTech and 21Ninety.
"We are a team that is as diverse as the audience we serve, working relentlessly from cities and countries around the world to disrupt and reclaim our narratives."
Morgan DeBaun says. But it was time for Blavity to retell its story.
Blavity needed a new way to display its exponential growth, re-establish its core values and share its successes. Following in the steps of larger media companies, Blavity set out to forge a new identity as Blavity, Inc., an umbrella entity that pays homage to our roots, affirms who we are as a company and boldly charts a path forward.
The Blavity, Inc. Ecosystem
The creative team and I set out to create something fresh and bold for the company’s next chapter. While our ultimate deliverable was to design a corporate website, we knew we needed to nail down the visual and tonal strategy for Blavity, Inc. too. As a result, we pushed for a design language that felt authentic to our brand of media but was unique in its execution.
Our main objectives were: to create awareness for all entities owned by Blavity, Inc., showcase our approach to problem solving and reflect the authentic, creative perspective established within the brands in our portfolio. The audiences we targeted were potential partners and investors as well as young professionals and brand loyalists.
After establishing the branding point of view, the creative team and I started the visual and tonal exploration. The grounding principles that led us were:
Corporate Meets Character — Traditionally corporate brand identities are conservative and sterile. Color palettes tend to stay within the blue, yellow and green family. What would it be like to re-imagine tradition through the lens of our vibrant, expressive black culture across the African Diaspora? What if we added a little more color to corporate?
Clean Aesthetics Matched with Artful Collages — We also searched for the right balance of abstract, avant-garde and realism. Our brands are grounded stylistically by lifestyle imagery and design elements. With the new concept, we wanted to steer Blavity, Inc.’s identity to be a bit more abstracted and aspirational.
Pops of Color on a White Canvas — Color, contrast and proportion were all considered in the process. The designs on Blavity Inc., needed to stand out but also be reminiscent of art displayed in a gallery. How could we splash the right amount of color and not have it feel too cluttered or overly dated?
With the evolving visual concept we focused the brand voice to be direct yet approachable. We sought to use language that positioned our voice as authoritative while encouraging space for discoverability and transparency. We wanted descriptions like “confident”, “bold,” and “innovative” to focus our exploration and add more depth to the visualization.
After selecting a font palette, we created a new logo using our primary typeface TT Norms. We took design cues from the original Blavity branding while adding custom elements. The name “Blavity” is a very strong and iconic name, and we chose a heavier weight sans serif font that was balanced but had some character.
To round out the font palette we paired TT Norms with Miller Display. This serif font adds a bit of refinement to the palette and allows us the ability to add versatility and special emphasis in our type combinations. As we continue to build upon our media platforms, particularly for our editorial and content systems, we will develop strong practices surrounding typography as a team.
For the color palette, we evolved the historic black and white combination to be more vibrant and expressive. We chose colors that complimented a range of skin tones and developed a cooler palette that pushed past a traditional, minimal corporate color palette.
For Blavity, Inc.’s visual identity, we created our new interpretation of culture corporate. We wanted an aesthetic that artfully juxtaposed patterns and shapes from the Diaspora with modern design elements. We chose portraits to be the heart of the content, and we use high contrast black and white photography against vibrant backgrounds and textures to form a pop art and suprematism aesthetic.
As we designed the unfolded the experience online, we wanted our audiences to follow the Blavity, Inc. brand story. In addition, we aimed to establish our corporate presence in the media landscape to drive business development and strategic partnerships. From showcasing our best work to publishing our own press-related corporate news, www.blavityinc.com curates a holistic snap of where we are and where we are headed.
Working Toward the Common Vision
Having joined in January 2018, this was my first large cross-functional initiative at the company. Alongside our Editorial and Business Development teams, I witnessed firsthand our deep commitment to growth as an organization. I can’t even begin to express how proud of I am of not just the work we produced but the process we underwent together to do it. For many of my peers, it was the first major branding exercise they’d ever been apart of at a company. Their willingness to learn about design thinking as well as ability to compromise while keeping us focused was extraordinary.
A major lesson I learned throughout the entire process is that perfection is the enemy of progress. Progress is progress. Having the right balance of business acumen and emotional intelligence helps you nail down the details while still keeping the bigger picture in mind.
Thank you Morgan DeBaun, Jonathan Jackson, Jeff Nelson and Aaron Samuels for such a strong and clear vision. Thank you Lilly Workneh for being the giant whose shoulders we stood upon throughout the project. Thank you Simone for your stewardship and support. Thank you Sankara Sauvignon, Christian Jones & Cadie Obeng for being on the front lines with us in the final hour. Thanks as well to the engineering team for the all the late nights and weekends.
I extend a special thank you to my creative team Anthony Crawford, Hasani Tyus & Tyler Bennett — you all are the heart and soul behind this project. Thank you for your commitment and patience over the past few months. There’s still much work to be done, but I am confident we have the special sauce to keep cultivating our ideas and bringing this dream to life.
Read our official company announcement here.
Quinnton Harris — Creative Director
Anthony Crawford Senior — Brand Designer
Hasani Tyus — UX/UI Designer
Jonathan Jackson — Departing Chief Brand Officer
Simone White — Business Development
Lilly Workneh — Editor-in-Chief
Morgan DeBaun — CEO